As any busy medical record review company reviewing thousands of medical records to ensure optimal medical review solutions will endorse, medical malpractice claims are more complicated than other type of injury lawsuits because they require extensive review of patient records, detailed analysis and testimony, as well as enquiry into the alleged negligence and long-term consequences. Determining the extent of damages is also time-consuming as the lawsuit slowly makes its way through the complex legal system.
So what decides the lifespan of a medical malpractice lawsuit?
- It depends on factors such as the complexity of the case, and the readiness of the parties to negotiate among other things.
- There is a statute of limitations or time limit on when one can file a complaint, with regard to medical malpractice lawsuits. This may vary with different states. For example, in Michigan, these claims must be filed within two years of the date the malpractice event occurred. If the injury is not discovered until after two years, an additional six months is allowed under the “discovery rule.” A lawsuit cannot be filed if the time limitations are ignored.
- States may also require specific items to initiate a medical malpractice claim such as:
- A written notice of the intention to take legal action, which must be served on the defendant at least 182 days before the lawsuit is actually filed.
- An affidavit of merit signed by a health professional who belongs to the same specialty as the defendant.
- After the claim is filed and the healthcare professionals alleged to have caused the injury are notified of the suit, both sides will begin the lengthy discovery period. This has an impact on the duration of the case because each side will want information, evidence, and relevant documents from the other so as to identify the important case related facts and develop their case. Time may also be involved in hiring expert witnesses to consult on the case and present their medical opinions and testify in court in case there is a trial.
- Out-of-court settlements occur late in the lifetime of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Meaningful settlement discussions can be undertaken only after both parties file motions and complete the discovery process. A settlement may be arrived at in the following scenarios:
- The insurance company recognizes that it may not prevail at trial
- When both parties agree on a settlement amount
- When both parties simply decide not to litigate the case any further
Medical malpractice cases are so diverse, and there is no standard timeline for litigating such claims.